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Opened in 1928 as the York Cinema, it was located on York Street, Hulme, an inner city district of Manchester. Seating was provided for 1,414 and in 1937 the operators were given as Thomas and Norman Royle, who operated it into the late 1940’s. By 1954 it was operated by York Cinema (Manchester) Ltd. and the seating capacity was given as 1,300.
In 1967 it was closed and converted into a bingo club, but this was short lived as in 1969 it was taken over by the Unit Four Cinemas Ltd. of Burnley who made one of their first conversions of a former single screen cinema here, when they converted the building into four screens, re-opening as the Unit 4 Cinemas. Seating capacities in the screens were 210, 101, 102 and 102. There was a bar and a snack bar for patrons. It was a 4 screen independent arts cinema from the mid-1970’s through to when it closed finally in 1991.
The last year’s of it life were rather troubled. In the late-1970’s it was re-named the Aaben Cinema when it was taken over by the then manager Geoff Banks who ran it as an independent arts cinema for the students and young professionals living in Hulme. Closing in 1983 – it was then taken over by Tony Fairclough (an ex-Odeon manager from Blackpool) who ran it for less than a year. About six months later it was reopened by myself and Steven Hagen (ex-proprietor of the Arts Centre Cinema Bristol). Hagen pulled out 6 month later and I got the lease off Fairclough and we ran it until 1990 when we closed it. Then for less than a year it was taken over by Robin Price ( a local operator who then ran a number of cinemas in the North West) – who ran it into the gound with it’s final demise in 1991, closing as the Cinetheque.
The building was left to rot, stripped of its assests by vandals, and eventually demolished in 1993 to make way for new housing as part of Hulme’s City Challenge regeneration.
Although it was far from being an attractive building, it was a hive of activity and film culture which led the way for Arthouse cinema in Manchester – a cinema for the people – unlike Manchester’s current art-house on Oxford Road.
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